AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) - There are some unique and green concepts for the afterlife -- such as becoming a tree, rain, wind chime "souvenair" or even a star that can be tracked via GPS.
The 2013 National Funeral Directors Association International Convention and Expo is in the Texas capital city, and perhaps it couldn't fit a better city with its coupling of green and "weird" concepts for the afterlife.
NFDA’s convention is the world’s largest annual gathering of funeral directors. It features workshops, seminars, social and networking events, and exhibits to help funeral professionals better assist grieving families plan a meaningful funeral or memorial service.
In an event that attracts more than 5,500 funeral directors, mortuary science students, suppliers and other allied professionals from around the world to the heart of Texas, organizers say it's an interesting opportunity to see how funeral directors are helping families plan funeral services "that are as unique as the person who died."
That includes green funeral and burial options, highlighted in the first-ever international Design for Death competition.
Designers, architects and artists had to rethink the way families might remember their loved ones. The winning designers and their entries will be available during in the convention center's Expo Hall.
Of the more than 700 entries, judges shortlisted 160 of those and chose just seven creative winners.
Some entry highlights
- Emergence: An underground biodegradable coffin connected to an upper space for visitors to sit and meditate. You basically become one with a growing tree.
- Design for Death [Living]: A park to combine cemeteries with spaces for the living.
- I wish to be rain: Transforming mortal remains into rain using cloud-seeding.
- Family Tree: A final resting place for families in a cluster of honeycomb-shaped urn vaults.
- Urn for memorial ceremony on water: An environmentally friendly urn that sinks into the water in the final ceremony.
- "Souvenair," a new funerary urn: A wind chime that keeps the ashes of our cremated loved ones -- keeping them in constant remembrance.
- Mushroom Death Suit: Using fungi to clean toxin from postmortem bodies.
- Final Farewell: An interactive grave marker for organ and tissue donors.
- Soul in the Sky. An urn with a GPS system. Our loved ones become stars that can be followed.
"As baby boomers age and find themselves having to plan funerals for loved ones and themselves, they are making funeral choices based on values that are different than previous generations," said NFDA Public Relations Manager Jessica Koth.
Alkaline Hydrolysis is being introduced to funeral consumers as an option in addition to earth burial, interment in a mausoleum or cremation. In essence, alkaline uses water and an alkali chemical to break down the body of someone who has died, leaving behind bones and bone fragments. Or, to put it even more simply, it accelerates the natural decomposition process.
The convention started Monday and goes through Wednesday at the Austin Convention Center.
In-Depth: Design for Death winners
- By Enzo Pascual, Pierre Rivière from France. EMERGENCE highlights the afterlife based on the maxim attributed to Lavoisier: "Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed." This project aims to make the cemetery a reservoir of life, a place of peace and places of worship for the families and friends of the deceased. Your place of rest becomes the site for a newly emerging and growing tree.
- By Ancunel Steyn from South Africa. For many of us the cemetery is not where we choose to unwind from a busy day or find inspiration for a more meaningful life. You might think it is obviously not, but cemeteries used to be our parks and they have the potential to become even more than that: a place where life is lived, where people of all ages find inspiration for life and prepare for death, where healing is not a mere suppression of emotion but a process that engages body, soul and spirit. The question is, how can we reduce space required to store the dead?
- By Studio PSK, Matter & Fact from UK. Humans now have the ability affect, control and even cause natural phenomena -- whether it is rain, an earthquake or a flood. We wonder if a person could do this not just by their actions, but literally transform themselves into types of natural spectacle. In death, we do have the potential to do just this.
- By Loucas Papantoniou, Asta Sadauskaite from Lithuania. Family Tree ensures that the love family members share for each other in life will continue for eternity. The tree consists of a cluster of honeycomb-shaped urn vaults. Each honeycomb, belongs to a deceased family member. Combined, the urns form the Family Tree, which serves as a final resting place for families. The urn vault is made of wood, with an OLED display cap. The display emits a serene, pulsing light that conveys spirituality and displays the name of the deceased with a short memorial message.
- By Agnes Hegedus from Hungary. My project gives an opportunity to the deceased watery place to rest. I combined several types of clay and natural or recycled materials. I pressed this material in plastel negative forms. With a little bit more water, I can glue the parts together with its own material, so I don't use any synthetic ingredients.
- By Chen Jiashan from France. Why should we keep the deceased ones away from our eyes? Why should we reduce the deceased ones to silence? The souvenair, small in size but clearly visible, can be hanged at home or in a public place. It's tiny and appeasing sound recalls the presence of the loved one whenever some wind blows.
- By Jae Rhim Lee from USA. The Mushroom Death Suit is green couture for the modern and futuristic postmortem body. Over a lifetime, we consume energy and resources such that our bodies accumulate up to 219 toxic pollutants, including pesticides, heavy metals, and preservatives, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The Mushroom Death Suit facilitates the decomposition and partial toxin cleaning of bodies using a collection of fungi, ‘Infinity Mushrooms,' which are known to remediate toxins such as methyl mercury, dioxins and furans, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), among others. These environmental benefits go hand in hand with the return of the body to the earth and taking responsibility for our own pollution of the earth.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela will be honored Tuesday morning with a public memorial service expected to be viewed by people around the world.
Jahleel Hoskins was ordered Monday to stand trial in the murder of Grand Rapids mother of five Latrice Maze.
A woman accused of perjury in connection to the homicide of Latrice Maze is back in jail.